AGA Falls Short of Taking a Stance

25 May 2001
The American Gaming Association (AGA) is officially not in favor of legalized Internet gambling. . . . Nor is it against it.

An AGA's meeting this week managed to create a stir among those in attendance.

Internet gaming took center stage at a meeting Tuesday among the association's board of directors. A lengthy discussion on the subject featured spirited debate between members of the 15-person board with varying opinions.

MGM Mirage Terri Lanni was vocal in his support of Internet gambling. "It's clear from his previous comments that Terri Lanni (MGM Mirage chief) has different view," AGA President Frank Fahrenkopf told the Atlantic City Press Plus. "Terry was at the meeting. No one was angry at each other. It was a good discussion."

Fahrenkopf acknowledged, "They (MGM Mirage) are clearly the strongest advocate" of Internet gaming.

MGM Mirage, along with Harrah's Entertainment, offers visitors to its website the opportunity to gamble online and win prizes. The two companies launched their sites in anticipation of Internet gambling eventually being legalized in the U.S. Yet, despite this move by some members of the land-based gaming community, not everyone is ready to dive headlong into an industry expected to be worth more than $6 billion by 2003.

"It is clear to me that ultimately there will come a time when gaming on the Internet will be common and legal in vast parts of the world," acknowledged Thomas Gallagher, president and CEO of Park Place Entertainment Group. Gallagher spoke during this week's Mid-Atlantic Gaming Congress in Atlantic City, which followed the AGA meeting.

Gallagher added, "At the same time, however, it seems to me that we as a company and we as an industry should pause for a moment before we engage in a headlong rush to legitimize and legalize Internet gaming."

Gallagher agrees that there is a huge demand for companies to offer online gaming. "Obviously, there's a market for gaming on the Internet--there are many unlicensed international operators out there," he pointed out. "There's no question there's demand. But the same can be said for a lot of businesses that currently aren't legal.

In the end, the AGA maintained its position--or non-position, depending upon how you interpret it. In a statement released on Wednesday, Fahrenkopf said, "While the board maintains its view that gaming is primarily a state regulatory matter, the consensus of the board is that appropriate regulatory and law enforcement oversight does not presently exist with regard to Internet gaming to properly protect the integrity of the games, the security and legality of financial transactions, and against the potentially harmful effects of underage and pathological gambling."

He continued, "The AGA will evaluate specific pieces of Internet legislation on a case-by-case basis as they are introduced in Congress and state legislatures. Such legislation must not create competitive advantages or disadvantages between and among commercial casinos, Native American casinos, state lotteries and pari-mutuel wagering operations."

MGM Mirage spokesman Alan Feldman added, "The AGA's support or non-support is not at issue. Our belief is that Internet gambling should be legalized and regulated if it can. It seems very clear today that day is coming when it is possible to provide the type of integrity that has made gaming possible in Nevada. That opinion may not be shared by some of our colleagues."